Monday, August 27, 2007

The Doglike mind

The doglike mind

I have tried to stress throughout the inevitableness of the error made about every transposition by one who approaches it from the lower medium only. The strength of the critic lies in the words "merely" or "nothing but. He sees all the facts but not the meaning. Quite truly, therefore, he claims to have seen all the facts. there is nothing else there, except the meaning. He is therefore, as regards the matter at hand, in the position of an animal. You will have noticed that most dogs cannot understand pointing. You point to a bit of food on the floor; the dog, instead of looking at the floor, sniffs at your finger. A finger is a finger to him, and that is all. His world is all fact and no meaning. And in a period in when factual realism is dominant we shall find people deliberately inducing upon themselves this doglike mind. A man who has experienced love from within will deliberately go about to inspect in analytically from outside and regard the results of this analysis as truer than his experience. The extreme limits of this self-binding is seen in those who, like the rest of us, have consciousness, yet go about the study of the human organism as if they did not know it was conscious. As long as this deliberate refusal to understand things from above, even where such understanding is possible, continues, it is idle to talk of any final victory over materialism. The critique of every experience from below, the voluntary ignoring of meaning and concentration on fact, will always have the same plausibility. There will always be evidence, and every month fresh evidence, to show that religion is only psychological, justice only self-protection, politics only economics, love only lust, and thought itself only cerebral bio-chemistry.

From "Transposition" in The Weight of Glory, pp. 71-72.

This seems like a good passage to begin exploring the idea of intentionality. What does it take to understand pointing. Do dogs have intentional states? If they do, it seems they don't recognize then as such.

The link here tracks back to an original DI post I did in 2006.

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At 8/28/2007 09:54:00 AM , Blogger J. Clark said...

There is a sort of irony in scientism. That they make themselves into exactly what they believe. They do, I believe, live according to their reason (which is truncated). This has a certain numbing effect to the inner life and rendors them from it. Therefore grafting them into nature like they already believe. In doing so, they are cut off from understanding the origin of reason for they are still just looking at the finger wondering what all the commotion is about.

At 8/28/2007 07:45:00 PM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...


I think the answer is modeling (prediction and abstract logic). Dogs don't model, they merely associate immediate sensations.

There's a hierarchy of adaptability. On the slow end is genetics which requires generations to adapt. Then there's learning by association wherein an individual of a species can learn some simple response in reaction to a stimulus. Finally, there's abstract modeling in which an individual can predict the future instead of simply reacting to the environment.

I wonder what Lewis means by the "voluntary ignoring of meaning." Is that intended as an insult aimed at skeptics, like j. clark's comment? Does he mean that naturalists reject the things that have subjective meaning to him (i.e., God, objective morality, etc.)? Either way, it doesn't sound very deep.

Got any examples where I "ignore meaning"?

At 8/28/2007 08:59:00 PM , Blogger J. Clark said...

Every opposing argument is an insult to the opposite's intellect. All the parsing of words will make a normal man crazy. What I want to know, is what does this matter when your car breaks down or when your wife is dying? Who's philosophy goes out the window first? "Sorry honey, all I can do is predict possible abstract outcomes according to the neurons firing in my brain; I hope they don't miss fire again today like they did last week when I was looking at my neighbors wife."

At 8/29/2007 06:57:00 AM , Blogger Doctor Logic said...


You're talking about emotion. There's nothing wrong with emotion, as long as it's just a motivator. You want emotion to displace reason. You want your desire for there to be a god to be an indicator that one exists. It isn't. No more than your desire for an invisible 6-foot bunny rabbit makes the giant bunny exist.

You are talking about emotionally challenging situations. What does that have to do with reason? Some people will lose their cool and make unreasonable decisions. How does that add meaning?

If someone you love were dying, how is belief in mythological figures going to save her? If you tell her about the myth to soothe her immediate feelings, why not lie instead and tell her that you've found the cure and she'll be back to full health soon? There's no difference to my mind.

At 9/05/2007 11:39:00 AM , Blogger J. Clark said...

That's an interesting take. Why not lie? You don't lie about something you believe is true. Now, the very Holy presence of God is real and comforts the broken hearted. But what about the materialist? What a quagmire they are in! "I know you're dying honey, but I must be honest, this death has no meaning, no purpose, we are mere sheep, we are on the same level as an amoeba. Your cells will no longer reproduce themselves and the heart muscle has run its course. Now you will go into annihilation and be forgotten forever. What you did in this life does not matter. Remember, I'm a materialist and I'm just spinning out what's firing on the inside. Any emotion is trivial. I hope this truth is not too harsh, oh wait, there really is no truth," as he chuckles, then quickly realizes he's lost his Spock-like demeanor. I've never met an materialist who could be "truthful" at a funeral or a wedding.


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